Researchers reveal potentially huge cancer breakthrough: a 10-minute universal test

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The DNA can be found in blood and tissue taken from biopsies, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Communications.

The research has been supported by a grant from the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

The types of cancers we tested included breast, prostate, bowel and lymphoma.

Prof Trau said the results "stunned" them and they realized that this was a "general feature for all cancer".

So, rather than focus on the methylation itself, the researchers in the new study looked at what the methylation did to the overall structure and chemical properties of the cancer DNA.

The DNA in cancer cells can be riddled with mutations that drive the growth of a specific tumour, but these mutations tend to differ depending on the type of cancer. "Usually, the approach to find cancer markers ... is to look at the sequence of DNA", he explained.

The position of these molecules forms part of the epigenome - a set of instructions that controls how genes are expressed. Specifically, cancer DNA has clusters of methyl groups at specific locations and nearly no methylation elsewhere, while normal DNA's methyl groups are more evenly spread out across the entire genome.

Researchers have devised a test that can quickly and cheaply identify any type of cancer from any type of tissue, be that blood or a biopsy sample. Trau said, "Virtually every piece of cancerous DNA we examined had this highly predictable pattern..."

"It seems that to launch cancer, you have to run a series of genetic apps".

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The development was made possible after they discovered that placing the cancerous DNA in a solution caused it to fold up into 3D structures. These 3D nanostructures could then be separated when they stick to solid surfaces, like gold.

"It's just a simple blood test that you can see with a naked eye", said Professor Trau.

The technology has proven to be up to 90 per cent accurate in tests involving 200 human cancer samples and normal DNA. But if the technique is further developed, perhaps the most immediate potential application would be monitoring existing cancer patients for disease recurrence, she said.

If the water stays pink this would suggest you have cancer, although the test can not detect what type or how advanced the disease is.

Researchers are working with UniQuest, UQ's commercialisation company, to further develop the technology and licence with a commercial partner.

"This is a huge discovery that no-one has grasped before", said Laura Carrascosa, a researcher at the University of Queensland.

"It's in early stages and will have to be validated ... but I think it's very interesting - it's a totally different approach", Associate Professor Gray said.

The test also works electrochemically by using flat gold electrodes and small amounts of purified DNA.

Scientists have developed a universal cancer detection test that traces infectious presence in the bloodstream, the Guardian reported on Wednesday.

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